Another commercial hitmaker does a standards album - sound familiar? Been there heard that you might think. Yes, while you might shudder at the thought of yet another Rod Stewart-like romp through the much put upon Great American Songbook that's not the case here - what a game effort. There's an incredibly atmospheric version of the Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green 1950s classic 'Just in Time.'
But this far more intimate and certainly ultra smoky take on the standard from singer Rickie Lee Jones also lands in a stimulating dialogue with the erstwhile Steps Ahead vibes great Mike Mainieri. The 'Chuck E's in Love' hitmaker's latest is produced by Russ Titelman famed for his work with Randy Newman and Stevie Winwood who goes way back with Jones to the end of the 1970s and the singer's self titled debut and also includes Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer songs. It was recorded at New York's Sear Sound studio.
The album personnel in addition to Mainieri includes pianist Rob Mounsey, guitarist Russell Malone - excellent on the finger clicking 'They Can't Take That Away From Me' - bassist David Wong and drummer Mark McLean who comes out swinging on the Gershwins' classic introduced to the canon in the 1930s by Fred Astaire.
''Leftover dreams'' song 'Here's That Rainy Day' is best of all, a superbly halting rhythm section accompaniment adding tasty undertones topped by an inimitable ache in Rickie Lee's voice that gives such gravitas to the Johnny Burke lyrics. And yet Carmen McRae doing the song in all quietude and soaring mystery on 1964's Bittersweet is in another league entirely. Because when you are in the land of the Great American Songbook jazz greats of McRae's stature cast a giant shadow still. That is the sheer scale of the challenge anyone faces in this very demanding domain. Those ''leftover dreams'' need the daylight of poetry shone on them.
And yet the Pieces of Treasure approach is more than valid. Three singles are streaming ahead of release: 'Nature Boy,' 'Just In Time' and 'September Song' and on the last of these the way she enunciates ''waiting game'' in the Maxwell Anderson lyrics to the Kurt Weill classic here is very much the way you'd imagine Bette Davis say the words.
Overall a more than decent trot through a lot of tried and tested favourites. Rickie has a wonderful voice, can sing the phone book and has nothing to prove which provides a certain freedom in this approach. Pick up the receiver to dial in when the album is out on 28 April.